Book Reviews

Book by Thomas A. Angelo & K. Patricia Cross
Review by Cynthia A. Walker, Ph.D.
Department of ESL and Foreign Languages
Georgia Perimeter College

In the eleven years since the first edition of this book was published, Classroom Assessment has become increasingly useful in the teacher’s arsenal of tools. Classroom Assessment Techniques (CAT) are not designed to evaluate students’ progress for grading but rather to help the teacher get concrete feedback on the students’ learning and understanding. By conducting frequent short assessments, the teacher gets snapshots of student learning and can make immediate mid-course corrections. This is far superior to waiting until the midterm results are in and finding that the students don’t get it. Although this book is designed as a handbook for teachers, advisors can profit from it as well. 

In brief, Classroom Assessment provides a means of assessing students’ understanding of course material. Perhaps the most widely known and used technique is the minute essay, in which students write a brief response to two questions, such as “What was the most useful thing you learned today?” and “What is one thing you don’t understand?” This should only take 2-3 minutes but it provides the teacher with a wealth of information. Reading student responses takes little time; they are not graded. Rather, they are designed to help the teacher understand what students are actually learning and, more importantly, what they're not. Immediate turn-around is essential. The information should be used right away to inform one’s teaching. It is also critical that students understand the Classroom Assessment process. They need to see their work being taken seriously and used to change course content or delivery. It may take a few rounds before students realize the significance of their effort. It is then likely that they will become more invested in the class and will be enthusiastic contributors since they will view themselves as co-creators of the course rather than passive recipients. 

The authors begin by giving a brief history and overview of CAT. This is helpful for newcomers but is also useful for veterans as a quick refresher course. However, this book is not intended to be a textbook in a pedagogical methods course. Rather, it is designed as a handbook of Classroom Assessment Techniques. Fifty techniques are detailed in the second part of the book. For each technique, the authors provide the following sections: description, purpose, related teaching goals, suggestions for use, examples, step-by-step procedure, turning the data you collect into useful information, ideas for adapting and extending this CAT, pros, cons, and caveats. This, in combination with the case studies in the book, allows the teacher to choose the correct technique(s) for a particular course. While the list is extensive, the teacher is not limited to those provided. Once the concepts of CAT are understood, the instructor can move on to create course-specific techniques tailored to his or her teaching style and the learning styles of a particular class, thus greatly enhancing the usefulness of Classroom Assessment.

From an advisor’s standpoint, this book is also useful. The mantra “Advising is teaching” underlies current concepts of advising. Techniques such as the minute essay could be used to give advisors a quick feel for the learning outcomes of an advising session. It is also worth noting that faculty advisors might feel more comfortable with advising if the techniques were more familiar to them. 

This book is extremely useful and would be a worthy addition to both teachers’ and advisors’ libraries.

Classroom assessment techniques: A Handbook for college teachers (second edition) (1993) Book by Thomas A. Angelo & K. Patricia Cross. Review by Cynthia A. Walker, Ph.D. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass 448 pp. $47.00, ISBN # 978-1-55542-500-5
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